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The European rumour mill is back up.First, the scoreboard:

Dow: 12,449.5, -13.0, -0.1%
S&P 500: 1,292.5, +0.4, +0.0%
NASDAQ: 2,710.8, +8.3, +0.3%

And now, the top stories:

  • This morning we learned that Germany’s GDP growth rate decelerated to 3.0% in 2011, which included a contraction in Q4.  However, this was largely in line with expectations.  Following the announcement, Germany had a successful auction of $4 billion dollars worth of 5-year debt, which sold for a low yield of 0.9%.  Investors will be paying closer attention to tomorrow’s Italian and Spanish debt auctions.
  • There was also all kinds of noise related to the rating agencies.  Fitch warned that time was running out for Greece and also said the ECB must prevent the collapse of the Euro.  Ironically, the euro sort of collapsed on the news.  Also, rumours started circulating again that France was on deck to be downgraded, which caused French bond yields to spike.  But an unnamed French official told Dow Jones that these rumours were untrue, which sent yields back down.
  • Last night, Microsoft warned its PC sales would fall short of expectations. Management is blaming supply disruptions related to the tragic floods in Thailand, which have affected the performance of numerous tech companies.
  • Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster bumped up his expectation for holiday iPhone 4S sales to 30 million from 26 million.
  • Crocs said its Q4 sales would come in at the high end of its guided range of $200 to $205 million.  Shares soared, but they’re nowhere near their highs of a year ago.
  • Urban Outfitters unexpectedly announced its CEO was stepping down.  This was troubling to investors as Urban Outfitters was in the process of turning around its operations.
  • Homebuilder Lennar announced quarterly EPS that was a penny shy of the consensus estimate.  However, revenue was healthy and so were its orders and backlog.  “[W]e have seen the market start to stabilise,” said CEO Stuart Miller. Here Is The Complete History Of U.S. Real Estate Bubbles Since 1800 >
  • The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book was released at 2:00 today.  There wasn’t too much groundbreaking news from this collection of anecdotes.  Based on the information, the Fed said the economy expanded at a “modest to moderate” pace.
  • It’s worth noting that financials staged a rally today, led by Bank of America and Citigroup.
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